Clyde Simms was an MLS standout over the past decade, starring for D.C. United for seven seasons before spending two years with the New England Revolution.
Underneath his toned physique, however, something horribly wrong has been eating away at him since his middle school days. His kidneys are failing.
Simms suffers from focal segmental glomerulosclerosis, also known as FSGS. This meant his kidneys had scarring on the tissue, a condition which worsens over time.
He found out that he had FSGS after a urine test from his doctor during a regular checkup in 8th grade. When the test came back, there was a high amount of protein in his urine, a common indicator of kidney problems.
Simms was placed on prednisone, a steroid that is commonly used for anti-rejection with kidney transplants, to see what would happen. After puffing his cheeks beyond the recognition of his closest friends, the diagnosis was confirmed.
Simms was still able to play the game that he loved, which was critical to keeping him in control of his condition. All he needed was a blood pressure medication throughout high school and his college career at East Carolina University, where he made a name for himself before turning pro.
Simms initially kept his condition under wraps until he started playing at D.C. United, concerned about what effect it might have on his playing time. He only confided with his trainer and doctors when he was in D.C.
“I was a little bit scared that if they knew that [I had FSGS], they would limit me in training, limit my playing time or jeopardize my contract with the team,” Simms told SoccerWire.com in a recent conversation about his condition.
Outside of his trainer, his family and a few friends knew about his condition when he played at RFK Stadium. But he became more open about his kidney disease when he joined the Revolution.
“I was really open about it. Everyone knew about it. My teammates and the training staff and the coaches. The coaches were really good about it,” said Simms.
As his kidney function decreased, it became tougher for him to recover from draining exertions. So the Revolution coaches would help the Jamestown, North Carolina, native by granting him an extra day off or a lighter training session.
Simms retired earlier this year due to the nagging effects of an toe injury, as well as the effects of FSGS.
“[The toe] was such a pain for me the year before. I would train for two days and then it would flare up on me and I couldn’t train for two or three days, and it would flare up on me [again],” said Simms. “It was so frustrating that it made my decision to hang them up.”
His failing kidneys also made it difficult to stay in the game – towards the end of his career, he would barely make it through film sessions without sleeping.
After retiring, Simms’ condition worsened enough to require dialysis, which he began after a severe illness kept him in the hospital for three weeks in May.
Simms had a fistula (a direct connection of an artery to a vein) done in his arm on June 4, so his dialysis treatments would go more smoothly. His kidney function slipped below 10 percent, so he must receive dialysis treatments three times a week.
“It’s crazy because I never realized how sick I was until I started dialysis. Now I have more energy, my mind feels clear,” he explained.
Simms stays close to his last team, living in Dedham, Massachusetts, as he receives treatment at Massachusetts General Hospital. Staying within a half hour of the Revs has also lifted his spirits: Many of his ex-teammates have given him plenty of well wishes.
While dialysis is keeping Simms alive for now, a kidney transplant will bode for a much better future. I can personally attest to that, as my last kidney transplant has lasted 18 years, from kindergarten through my post-college years, and only now do I need another kidney.
Simms has been searching for a kidney for the past few months. Between dialysis and countless doctor’s appointments, he has become an advocate for kidney disease awareness. He has traveled to schools to get children tested for kidney disease, and attended the Baltimore Kidney Walk in May.
“This is something that is close to me, and obviously the way that it has affected the people close to me, like my family and close friends,” said Simms. “And I know that there are a lot of people who struggle with the same issues. I think it was a good time to talk about it, because I was retiring, and being a professional athlete that has kidney disease is a good way to raise awareness.”
He also hopes to open an indoor cycling studio in Massachusetts later this month.
While the future is not completely certain for Simms, he is ready for whatever comes next.